Memories: Muriel Large

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When Peter Darrell took over the direction of Western Theatre Ballet following the death of Elizabeth West it was not expected that he would remain with the company for more than the promised year.

He had already made a reputation for himself with the sparkling and hugely successful television series Cool for Cats and invitations had begun to arrive from the larger managements for him to choreograph special "numbers", for which he had a great facility - not for nothing was his current nickname "Steps". He loved the big-scale musicals, particularly The White Horse Inn, in a touring version of which he had appeared in his first professional engagement as a dancer.

Peter continued to work in the commercial theatre but his first commitment remained to the company, which did not prevent him from complaining regularly about the practical restrictions created by the number of dancers. When there were fourteen he wanted sixteen; when there was an increase to sixteen he wanted twenty. He was never satisfied, and yet from this seeming limitation emerged some of his finest work. His greatest admiration was reserved for the choreographers Fokine and Bronislava Nijinska; his own choreography he described, in his cups, as a "modest talent".

It was the transformation of the company into The Scottish Theatre Ballet, however, which opened up possibilities for the "casts of thousands" he had longed for. A more substantial annual grant enabled Tales of Hoffmann to be mounted, requiring four ballerinas and two principal male dancers of highest quality. This was the beginning of a new era, and he revelled in the opportunities it offered. The overall breadth and diversity of Peter Darrell's work can best be seen from the Appendix: a remarkable achievement for a modest choreographer.

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